Friday, July 17, 2015

The Name Game

I have always been fascinated with words and more specifically with names. Names of people, names of things in the natural world. As the writer Ursula LeGuin once had one of her characters say "The name is the thing and the truename is the true thing." Certainly there is meaning in names and sometimes a power. Botanical nomenclature is an area where that often holds true. Then again, it's certainly okay to be whimsical in coining a common name or perhaps a cultivar or variety. These names may be pure whimsy, hold a meaning only the namer knows or have a tie-in to history, be that the history of the human race or owing to a more botanical heritage.
In this spirit I want to offer a little amusement about the common or varietal names of plans. Do you remember that board game where you turned over a square and it held an image and then you had to find its mate. So I present a sort of botanical version of that game, matching two plants by their common or variety names. Why? Why not? Hopefully it will bring a moment's delight or reflection to a few reading today's blog. Here are 15, starting with the pair that got me thinking about these associations. As it turns out, several of these will appear in the garden photos that follow.

1. Calceolaria 'Kentish Hero' + Oreganum 'Kent Beauty.' It stands to figure there aren't a whole lot of plants here in the U.S. market that have the word Kent in them so this is a fun and odd pairing.
2. Agastache 'Grapefruit Nectar' + Gaillardia 'Oranges & Lemons.' You could no doubt come up with many fruit names -- many gardeners are seemingly obsessed with food names -- but these two came to mind.
3. Arisaema 'Jack-in-the-Pulpit' + Aconitum carmichaelii (Monkshood). This association owes more to the fact that both plants produce hooded flowers, though of course there's the oblique religious connection (Monk + Pulpit).
4. Asarina 'Bridal Wreath' + Spirea vanhouttei (Bridal Wreath spirea). Needless to say both these plants produce pretty white flowers, the former tubular blooms and the latter sprays of tiny little white flowers.
5. Begonia 'Calypso' + Helenium 'Mardi Gras.' You could choose other musical names or ones pointing to cultural celebrations. I have these in my garden so they jumped to mind. Calypso does indeed have tropical colors and the Mardi Gras sneezeweed has bright reds and golds so there you go.
6. Portulaca 'Fairytales Cinderella' + Dianthus 'Cheshire Cat.' Umm, no, I'm not making these names up. The connection? Well, fairytales of course!
7. Citron 'Buddha's Hand' + Nelumbo nucifera (Sacred Lotus flower). Easy connection here. There's an old saying "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him" (because that isn't the real Buddha). In this case, I would say "If you meet the Buddha on the road, plant him."
8. Callirhoe 'Wine Cups' + Oxalis 'Zinfandel.' Cheers!
9. Camellia 'Little Babe' + Tolmiea (Piggyback plant). Connection? Think movies. About a farm animal that runs away to the city? Yes, that 'Babe' (the pig). C'mon folks, keep up with me.
10. Canna 'Australia' + Leptospermum. Connection? It's in the common name for the latter plant. Tea tree. More specifically New Zealand Tee tree. I'm sure all you Lord of the Rings fans got that one.
11. Clematis armandii 'Snowdrift' + Cerastium (Snow-in-Summer). I could have also chosen Snowdrops. There's a surprising number of plants who invoke winter in their common or variety names.
12. Hibiscus 'Southern Belle' + Clematis 'Belle of Woking.' Belle might seem at first to be a name that wouldn't show up much but given that it means 'beautiful' in French, well that might explain its modest popularity. One could add Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile.'
13. Okay, here's one from left field or one where you need the 'way back machine.' Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Fred Flintstone' + Aquilegia yabeana. Fred Flintsone. Really?! And the connection is? you wonder. Here it's the species name of this beautiful columbine. Yabeana becomes yabba becomes "Yabba dabba doo!" No, somebody did not slip something into my coffee ...
14. Cunonia capensis (Butterknife tree) + Osteospermum 'Spoon.' The Cunonia earns its common name by the butterknife-looking stipules that open into coppery new leaves (see photo below). Spoon osteos are so named because instead of the usual petals they feature a corona of tiny little teaspoon-shaped petals. Quite quirky but lovely.
15. And not to burn my bridges behind me but the last one is Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame' + Delosperma 'Fire Spinner.'

And now the photos!

I sometimes get caught up in taking closeup photos of flowers so I'm trying to amend my ways. This beautiful, bushy Abutilon makes it easy to want to capture it in its sparkling fullness.

Eccremocarpus 'Tresco Gold.' One of my favorite small climbers, in part because the flowers are just so colorful. A favorite of hummers.

Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy.' I've always been struck with how showy the flowering stems are on this ubiquitous looking plant. It's almost as if the flowers are trying to make up for the plain, strap-shaped foliage (although in this case, the first leaf shoots are a lovely burgundy color).

Grower Susan Ashley and I seem to agree that this Pavonia missionum isn't the most vigorous of plants and doesn't seem to fill in all that densely. Still, this little known member of the Mallow family has the prettiest of flowers so I guess all is forgiven.

Another shot of what I'm now calling the 'helicopter' Aloe (A. distans). Speaking of hummingbird favorites, aloe flowers rank near the top. Drought tolerant, beautiful and a hummer magnet? Sold.

Queen of the lilies? You could almost make that claim for Lilium regale flowers. To begin with they're huge. Then there's that pure white with the canary yellow centers. Add in a heady fragrance and there's no question they're a head turner.

Laurentia axillaris. Or 'Blue Stars' to the initiated. Okay, the 'stars' are lavender not blue but they appear in great numbers in summer, popping open above delicate foliage. Charming and surprisingly tough.

Is there such a thing as a 'forgotten mint?' That might be true for this Calamintha variegata. It's grown as an ornamental and this one features lovely pink flowers. Winter dormant, it springs to life in late spring.

Deppea splendens. This photo gives a better idea of the burgundy bracts and shows the strong yellow flowers with the recurved tips. Once believed to be extinct in the wild, it was discovered in the mountains of Chiapis Mexico. One of the curious features of this showy ornamental is that the flowers appear at the ends of stems so slender and wiry they don't look like they could support anything heavier than a feather.

"In the rocket's red glare ..." Well, not quite but the bud forms of Ruellia elegans do kind of look like rockets about to shoot into outer space. This photo doesn't quite show just how saturated a red these wonderful little flowers truly are.

On the right side of this hanging basket is the plant that led off the Name Game section above. Yep, that's Kent Beauty oregano and it definitely has its own fan club. That would be on account of the lovely pinkish bracts at the tips of each stem. Now, all we need to know who this Kent fellow is. Would that be Clark or county? As in Clark Kent or County Kent in England? Hmmm.

This Dorotheanthus is better known as Livingstone Daisy. (Dr. Daisy Livingstone, I presume?) It produces flowers of many colors, most notably pinks, yellows and whites and is very drought tolerant.

Got purple? It still amazes me that many gardeners have never heard of Trachelium. This is T. 'Hamer Pandora' (talk about a singular name!). This Blue Throatwort is a prolific bloomer and bees adore it. 

Pink out! Pink out! OK, that was meant to suggest a 'pink freakout,' which is certainly the case for this Hollyhock (H. 'Mars Magic'). I think you could hypnotize someone with one of these flowers ("Just look at the center of the flower. Continue to stare at it. Your eyes are getting drowsy ...")

I just love the center of Alyogyne hakeafolia. Love those rotating red 'arms' and the inner stamen cluster is full and rich. 

Seedheads are a burgeoning source of interest for me. You may gaze at this one and think 'It sort of looks like a dandelion but not quite.' Indeed, this is the curious seedhead of a Scorzonera hispanica (Black Salsify). This plant is better known, if at all, for the intense chocolate smell of its flowers. Who knew they'd have such beautiful seedheads?

I never get tired of photographing my Tecoma x smithii. Love that color and the exuberance of its blooming clusters. Not invasive like its 'cousin' Tecomeria capensis, it nonetheless is vigorous. I have mine safely contained in a median strip.

Speaking of exuberant, my honeysuckle is alive with flowers (and bees). This is the classic honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica 'Halliana.' I've kept mine trimmed as a bush so it doesn't take up too much space or get out of hand.

Back to the Name Game. Here's one of the participants. Can you guess which one? It's Portulaca 'Fairytales Cinderella.' Very cute flowers and it's just beginning a new bloom season.

I once made a sign for this plant in our nursery. It said "Take a Toad home today." That was referring to this bulb's common name (Toad lily), also known as Tricyrtis. They're a prolific mid-summer through fall bloomer, liking some relief from midday heat. Native to the East Himalayas and the Phillipines, they are now a common sight in Bay Area retail nurseries.

Here's a better photo of my Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile.' If you looked up 'white' in a visual dictionary you might see a picture of this flower. And of course the flowers are fragrant. 

Here's another entry in our Name Game, Asarina erubescens 'Bridal Bouquet.' I love the lush look of the foliage and then the otherworldly white flowers. The erubescens species varieties look nothing like the more popular scandens types, like A. scandens 'Joan Lorraine,' that feature small, delicate, lobed leaves. 

Though it's not yet in bloom, this Hydrangea quercifolia, better known as Oakleaf hydrangea, is so full and vigorous it was worth a photo. One of my favorite four season plants.

No mistaking Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. He sits in my back yard, next to the pond. That back yard is a kind of bird sanctuary so it seemed like a good place to put him.

Here's my Begonia 'Illumination Yellow' with Lonicera sempervirens. Though this Eastern native honeysuckle isn't fragrant, its beautiful flowers are more than worth the effort to make room for it.

Lastly, one more Name Game entry, the Butterknife tree. Here the stipule has just opened to reveal coppery young leaves. It hasn't flowered yet but it's such an interesting and beautiful plant I can wait.

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